Music Marketing Doesn't Work?Apr 11, 2022
I know…weird title for a marketing agency. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure about even posting this one as it seems a bit controversial to name a blog article this way. Then, I thought it might be a good title to catch your attention and pass a really important message. Let me be clear, music marketing doesn’t work for a big portion of artists and I want to dig into why. Since I started working in this industry, I was convinced that success was 80% marketing and 20% talent. Some of you probably recall me saying this exact thing to you. After 6 years of working with more than 100 artists with different genres, backgrounds, budgets, fan bases and nationality, I can say with certainty that I was terribly wrong. Let me explain why.
First, what is music marketing really? Hell, what does marketing even mean? For my team and me, it means using the tools creatively to expand an artist’s audiences and strengthen their relationship with their fans. The job of a marketing agency is to help the artist create the right message/content for the release, target the right group of people based on analysis of existing/similar artist audiences and assess performance during the release cycle. With the right team, budget, music and assets you should be getting good results from your campaign right? On paper, yes you should. Unfortunately, we’re living in the real world where it’s way more complex than that. Luckily, there are more ways than ever to adjust a strategy to create something we like to call real-world results.
Assets Not Engaging
An asset (in our world) is a piece of content that will be used for marketing purposes. It can either be a photo, a video or a combination of both. It’s what will be used for advertising or posting. Choosing the right piece of content for promotion is probably the most important part of a marketing strategy. With TikTok and other social media out there, users have billions of options. Why would they stick around if your video intro is 7 seconds of a guitar buzz and bird sounds? Would you stop scrolling for that?
Even tho my experience really helps to predict the performance of certain videos, nobody truly knows what will blow up and what will slowly disappear in the social media multiverse. The best way to know is to test it and it’s for that reason that you should always have a few different options for promo content. Try them out and stick with the ones that are showing the best results.
People don’t fall in love with your song(s)
Let’s be brutally honest, people are lazy and don’t like to go out of their comfort zone. If you’re reading this, you don’t want music to be a hobby and I already love you for it. But it also means that you need an audience willing to “buy” what you’re selling. These days, the only way to truly acquire new fans is if they FALL IN LOVE with your music and your identity. If they think it’s okay or it’s good they won’t care about buying show tickets, streaming every release or engaging with your content online. They will go back to their comfort zone: artists they already know and love. Even if you’ve been working on a track for months and think it’s the shit, people have to think that too for it to perform well. Keep in mind that you are biased and, as any company who tries to launch a new product, if the public doesn’t want it, you have to quickly move on to the next one and forget about this child of yours (ok weird sentence but I hope you get the idea). Even if your music is GREAT, you need to find a way to creatively direct people to it. They need you to take their hand and slowly, with each piece of content you share, convince them that they're discovering valuable art!
You’re a business and it takes time to build something sustainable.
One really really important thing to keep in mind is that you are a business owner. Your product can be quite disposable and you need to create a lot before catching the attention of possible buyers. The more you do, the more you should see results coming in. The same thing goes with any marketing endeavour. If you’re hoping that doing one ad campaign for your first single will bring 211 832 streams and 10 974 followers you should really manage your expectations. Even with a good budget and marketing plan, the chances are that your first ever release and ad campaign will bring modest results. The name of the game is quality and consistency.
Before wrapping up this article, I want to discuss how and why my mind changed about music marketing in general. Maybe I was an idealistic kid but when I started, I was 110% sure that any product was marketable with the right team and budget. Today, after close to 6 years of doing marketing for indie artists and labels, I need to change my speech drastically. As more experienced people were telling me at the time, it’s always about the music. TikTok is for me, the proof of concept I needed. It’s crazy how, in the last few years, the social media platform created more major artists than any other media combined. The very real truth is that, if someone connects deeply with your track, the chances are that other people will feel the same. And if enough people think that your release is crazy good, they will use it to make more content. You then get into a content loop that is completely out of your control. It becomes viral. Even with little to no marketing effort, a really good song could blow up. I’m afraid the opposite isn’t true unless you already have a big fanbase.
So what’s next then?
Let me apologize for a minute. I do not think music marketing doesn’t work. It would be an offence to my entire being and quite frankly hypocritical. I think that music marketing works terribly well when all the right things are in place: amazing song(s), multiple contents for promotion, active social media accounts, really good branding, a creative team of professionals, a good budget, an open mind and a certain detachment from the product(s). The first step of every successful marketing campaign is to assess the points above and try to get them as ready as possible before jumping into the shark-infested waters for a midnight swim.
About the author
Hello! I'm Simon, the founder of Golden Path Music and the proud manager of a few artists in Canada. With an advanced music business certificate from Berklee and a sound engineering college diploma, music has always been a passion for me. For the last six years, I'm lucky enough to be helping artists and labels exploit their full potential by providing marketing, management and funding services. On top of that, I'm a mountain climber with the goal of climbing Mount Everest in 2032 and an avid gamer.
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